I have never had soft, fair body hair. My body hair grows wild, thick, strong, curly and dark, and it took me far too long to realize that it did not want to be tamed and that I did not want to tame it.
The most common question that I get from people regarding my natural body hair that grows under my arms, beneath my navel, and on and between my legs is also the most simple one. People want to know why it is that I don’t remove it. For every person, the reasons that they make choices about their own bodies differ. For me, one reason came down to my desire to live life without unnecessary shame.
It was several years ago on the first warm day of Melbourne spring that I found myself on a tram, heading to a friend’s house. I looked out the window and reveled in the beauty of the springtime blossoms. They brought the street to life, then I looked down toward myself. I froze. My legs hadn’t been shaved since the start of winter and were visibly hairy. They’d been safely hidden beneath thick stockings and warm corduroy for the cold season and had no reason until now to be exposed.
My heart began to pound and I was struck with fear. What if my friend saw how hairy I was? I had to think fast. It was urgent. At the time I was living pay-check to pay-check, and only had $10 left in my bank account, but I was frantically considering spending it at the nearby convenience store on an emergency razor.
In hindsight, I feel for that past version of myself. I felt acute shame without truly understanding the reason for it. Don’t get me wrong, I think that shame has its place in my emotional spectrum, and I value it. When I have done something that I know is wrong, if I have harmed someone in any way, I welcome the challenge of feelings of guilt, shame, and regret. They exist to teach me not to behave that way again, however, the shame I felt on that tram had no actual justification. I had done nothing except exist in my natural state, and that was not immoral.
It was in that moment that I resolved to not only allow my friend to see the hair on my legs but to stop removing hair from my body altogether. I chose to do it in defiance of the societal pressure that had struck fear within me. I knew that it would be a struggle, and it took me over a year to feel comfortable raising my arms above my head in public, but now I do so with pride. I go to sleep gently and lovingly stroking my body hair, and now when I look at my dark curls, I revel in them in the same way that I reveled at those springtime blossoms.